God Friended Me

Credits

Cast

Network

Reviewer

Kristin Smith
Paul Asay

TV Series Review

“I don’t believe in God,” Edmond Dantes says in Alexandre Dumas’ famed novel The Count of Monte Cristo.

“It doesn’t matter,” Abbe Faria tells him. “He believes in you.”

Miles Finer doesn’t believe in God either. He once did—his father’s a pastor, after all, and he grew up listening to his daddy’s sermons. But a family tragedy smacked the guy upside the head when he was just 8 years old, and that knocked him for a spiritual loop. Miles finally felt like he had just two options: A.) Accept that God can be really spiteful, or B.) Reject the notion of God altogether.

In the end, he chose Option B. Now, walking in what he believes to be an uncaring universe devoid of cosmic meaning, he’s found a measure of peace.

“There is no God, and that’s OK,” Miles tells his podcast listeners. And at that moment, he means it.

But while Miles may not believe in God, God believes in him. Moreover, God—or, should we say, “God”—wants a relationship with him.

But burning bushes are sooo Old Testament. Nothing says “relationship” these days like social media.

Forget that still, small voice: How ’bout a nice smiley emoji?

Faithbook

It takes more than a simple friend request on Facebook to convince Miles of God’s reality, naturally. The spiritual wounds he bears go too deep for that. He figures the man or woman behind the cloudy Facebook picture is spiritually catfishing him—a troll in a lamb’s clothing.

Still, he, computer whiz Rakesh and Cara Bloom, the journalist and, as the show unfolds, love interest who’s helping Miles try to uncover the identity of this mysterious Facebook friend, have to admit that divine or not, something strange is at work.

Through “God’s” account, Miles, Rakesh and Cara are connecting with one another and deeply needy people: the poor, the grieving, the angry. Miles begins to serve as his divine Facebook buddy’s hands and feet—helping families patch up their relationships, giving a guiding word or two to someone at a moral crossroads. Whoever “God” turns out to be, He (or he) has a real knack for knowing who could use some timely aid.

Along the way, perhaps Miles, Rakesh and Cara can find ways to heal their own wounds, too. Indeed, the process has already begun. Cara reunites with her mother, who left town when Cara was just a little girl. Rakesh learns the importance of vulnerability. And Miles begins to take the first halting steps toward reconciling with his pastor father, Arthur, who was deeply hurt when Miles turned away from faith.

Then there’s the role social media plays.

Facebook often serves as a platform for political vitriol or petty envy. At best, its critics argue, it fosters connection in the most vacuous of ways. But whoever “God” is, He clearly has more on His mind than giving a blue thumbs-up to vacation photos. There’s something more at work here, something deeper. And Miles—reluctant, skeptical, doubting Miles—is at the center of it all.

Spiritual Media

In a television landscape saturated with dark dramas, Emmy-bait serials and “mature” content in the worst sense of the word, God Friended Me feels positively old-fashioned. It plays by a set of well-nigh forgotten television rules, and plays well.

Brandon Micheal Hall, star of God Friended Me, is a Christian. His real-life mother was a pastor, and he grew up in church: So playing an atheist, he admits, was a challenge. “I like taking roles that are uncomfortable,” he said during a recent roundtable discussion (of which Plugged In was a part).

He added that the show is designed to facilitate conversations about one of the most important, but ticklish, subjects today: faith.

“We’re telling the story of human connection,” he said.

So for all its traditional trappings, God Friended Me feels ambitious, even audacious, in its goals. In a television landscape where religion is often portrayed as a cruel tool or laughable character trait, this CBS drama suggests that God and faith can be conduits for welcome change, salves for our troubled times. It feels a little bit like that network’s own 1990s staple Touched by an Angel, or NBC’s 1980s drama Highway to Heaven.

But, perhaps in another sign of the times, God Friended Me eschews those shows’ overtly supernatural components (angels coming to earth to help folks, etc.) for a more subtle spiritual reality—one where “God” might not be who He says, and one where even His earthbound avatar isn’t sure how much to believe. The show seems to just to allow, but to invite questions—perhaps channeling Hall’s own view on how to deal with spiritual uncertainties in real life. “The more you push your ideas on someone else, the more that person pushes away,” he said.

But some viewers may push away this show for other reasons. Miles lives in New York City, a living tapestry filled with not just every religion known to man, but every lifestyle. And while God Friended Me is certainly better behaved than most hour-long dramas, not everyone we see is as chaste or as well-behaved as we might like. For instance: Miles’ lesbian sister, Ali, moves in with her girlfriend and her father—a pastor—seems to be A-OK with their setup. Sexual dalliances show up elsewhere, and language can be a bit salty, too.

Still, God Friended Me is more navigable than some—one designed to inspire and encourage. In an age in which almost every television show aspires to be edgy and niche, this series just wants to bring folks together again, both in its fictional environs and in the living rooms in which it airs.

Episode Reviews

April 14, 2019: “Que Sera Sera”

In this Season 1 finale, Miles, Cara and Rakesh run into personal trouble when they track down a crucial player in the “God account.” Miles’ father, Bishop Arthur Finer, makes bold moves as a bishop and a husband.

Miles, Cara and Rakesh all fight for their jobs after being accused of illegally hacking a website (which is untrue). A man helps each of them recover what they’ve lost as the season spins to a hopeful conclusion.

We hear that a young girl is saved after nearly drowning. A woman admits that she has leukemia and a man grieves his sister’s death. A group of people attend a bat mitzvah and a woman enters an Indian temple where various statues of gods lie on the floor.

Miles discusses the importance of honesty in a loving relationship. Miles’ father, Arthur, proposes to his girlfriend. A woman wears a cleavage-baring top. Couples kiss, hug and flirt. Men and women drink a bit of hard liquor, wine and beer at a bar. God’s name is misused once and “h—” and “d–mit” are each heard once.

Oct. 21, 2018: “Error Code 1.61”

Miles and Cara’s latest message prompts them to help a woman find the love of her life. Rakesh and his love interest, Jaya, help a man unfurl a complex scientific equation.

There’s plenty of conversation about love, fate, destiny and the roles they play in life. Couples kiss and flirt. A woman assumes that another woman is flirting with her, and one woman briefly discusses her same-sex relationship. A man tells his friend that he’s gay. Women wear revealing outfits. A husband speaks about his wife’s passing. God’s name is misused twice and other language includes one use each of “h—” and “d–mit.”

Sept. 30, 2018: “Pilot”

Miles calls himself the “Millennial Prophet” on his new podcast, but he’s really a mouthpiece for atheism, not for any god. “I just want people to take responsibility for their own lives,” he tells his listeners. But when he receives a friend request from someone who claims to be God, he decides to uncover the identity of this assumed troll—enlisting the help of a journalist (Cara Bloom) and a hacker friend of his (Rakesh) to do so.

Cara says that she’s not religious, but she does believe that “there’s something greater at work here, some grand design that unites us all.” And indeed, an apparent “grand design” is apparently operating all over this opening episode: When Miles stops a man from jumping in front of a subway, the same man later shows up to help Cara after she’s hit by a car. (He’s a doctor, apparently.) Cara realizes that her estranged mother, a nurse, cared for Miles mother when the latter was being treated for cancer. (Another “coincidence” that leads to reconciliation.)

We hear about miracles, faith, doubt and the nature of God. When Rakesh apparently tracks “God” to a house (he says His firewall is “sublime”), Miles dashes in to find it deserted, with only a freshly painted picture of an angel left behind. (“That angel might as well be pointing the middle finger,” someone quips.) Miles and his pastor father, Arthur, get into an argument over religion (“I’ve devoted my life to God, and you spread the notion that God doesn’t exist!” Arthur says), and we hear a portion of Arthur’s latest sermon. Miles talks with a Jewish rabbi on his podcast. A bush on a city street apparently bursts into flame.

Rakesh appears to be Hindu, one whose parents are trying to arrange a relationship with an acceptable future bride. He and the would-be bride have dinner and hit it off: “You know what I do to get back at my parents?” the woman says, touching Rakesh’s leg with her foot. “Things they wouldn’t approve of.” Shortly thereafter, we see them in an apartment, sans clothes (though we only see them from the bare shoulders up), either before or after a sexual encounter.

We learn that Cara’s mother was once an alcoholic. Miles’ sister, Ali, works at a bar and serves beer. Cara suffers a punctured lung after getting hit by a car. Characters say “a–” twice, “d–n” once and “h—” four times.

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Kristen Smith
Kristin Smith

Kristin Smith joined the Plugged In team in 2017. Formerly a Spanish and English teacher, Kristin loves reading literature and eating authentic Mexican tacos. She and her husband, Eddy, loving raising their little guy, Judah. Kristin also has a deep affection for coffee, music, her dog (Cali) and cat (Aslan).

Paul Asay
Paul Asay

Paul Asay has been part of the Plugged In staff since 2007, watching and reviewing roughly 15 quintillion movies and television shows. He’s written for a number of other publications, too, including Time, The Washington Post and Christianity Today. The author of several books, Paul loves to find spirituality in unexpected places, including popular entertainment, and he loves all things superhero. His vices include James Bond films, Mountain Dew and terrible B-grade movies. He’s married, has two children and a neurotic dog, runs marathons on occasion and hopes to someday own his own tuxedo. Feel free to follow him on Twitter @AsayPaul.

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